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J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Aug;18(8):789-97. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0071. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

A preliminary study of the effects of repeated massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in healthy individuals: a study of mechanisms of action and dosage.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. mrapapo@emory.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

This study gathers preliminary data about the biologic effects of repeated Swedish massage therapy compared to a light-touch control condition.

DESIGN:

The study design was a 5-week comparison of repeated Swedish massage and light touch on oxytocin (OT), arginine-vasopressin (AVP), adrenal corticotropin hormone (ACTH), cortisol (CORT), circulating phenotypic lymphocyte markers, and mitogen-stimulated cytokine function.

SETTING:

The setting was an outpatient research unit in an academic medical center.

PARTICIPANTS:

The study subjects were medically and psychiatrically healthy young adults.

INTERVENTION:

The study comprised 45 minutes of Swedish massage or light touch, using highly specified and identical protocols, either weekly or twice weekly for 5 weeks.

OUTCOME MEASURES:

The outcome measures were mean differences between massage and light touch on OT, AVP, ACTH, CORT, lymphocyte markers, and cytokine levels.

RESULTS:

Compared to the touch control condition, weekly Swedish massage stimulated a sustained pattern of increased circulating phenotypic lymphocyte markers and decreased mitogen-stimulated cytokine production, similar to what was previously reported for a single massage session, while having minimal effect on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function. Twice-weekly massage produced a different response pattern with increased OT levels, decreased AVP, and decreased CORT but little effect on circulating lymphocyte phenotypic markers and a slight increase in mitogen-stimulated interferon-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-1b and IL-2 levels, suggesting increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

CONCLUSIONS:

There are sustained cumulative biologic actions for the massage and touch interventions that persist for several days or a week, and these differ profoundly depending on the dosage (frequency) of sessions. Confirmatory studies in larger samples are needed.

PMID:
22775448
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3419840
Free PMC Article
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